By the bulletpoints
The presentation was made by the Cooperative Strategies demography firm over the summer. The purpose was to look at the direction increasing enrollments would likely take into the next decade in order to inform a building plan. In the last 2 1/2 years, with an eye to actual enrollments, the city council, parks and school board staff worked with Harbert International to sketch out a shared expansion of west Homewood property for ballparks and possibly a relocated high school building. The city then backed a $110 million bond issue, dedicating half to the school facilities expansion project (minus the high school relocation), $35 million to ballfields expansion and new pool, and the rest to a relocated police facility. Tonight, the results of the projections showed a wave of student growth moving up through the system and cresting in the high school in 2025, while enrollments behind it will recede. While audience members resisted the news, particularly as it pertains to assumed population explosion in West Homewood, the demographer steadfastly disagreed.
Basing findings on a method using birth rate, student yield per unit of housing, census data and current enrollments, the demographer hit the following points:
- A bubble of enrollment began in 2007 and is working through the system.
- Routine student yield for multi-family dwellings is about 15 per 100 units; in Homewood the number is nearly twice that.
- The housing composition served by each elementary school is 74% single family for Edgewood versus a 50/50 breakdown between single- and multi-family housing for both Hall-Kent and Shades Cahaba elementary schools.
- Student densities and housing type have shifted over the last decade. Specifically, the approximately 300 students displaced by the razing of the Magnolia Apartments was counterbalanced by an equal growth in the western area apartments over the following three years.
- Student yield by school zone has been decreasing over the last 4 years.
- The birth rate has remained relatively flat; and building permits show a relatively flat rate of growth.
- The elementary schools are at or slightly over capacity at the present time, with numbers expected to decrease.
- Even the most liberal projection only adds 200 students to Hall-Kent over the next decade, while the most conservative projection shows the high school hitting 1,400 at its peak and the middle school rising to 1,110 students.
- The high school is over capacity now and will be compounded
City council president Bruce Limbaugh seemed stunned, perhaps disappointed to hear that a population boom wasn’t predicted in West Homewood. He asked if the city’s commitment to building $30 million in new parks would increase that number, but the demographer dismissed the “If we build it they will come” mentality, saying investment doesn’t necessarily create a bubble, and that there were no indications of an increase based on the “time-tested” model the company was utilizing. Several from the audience then questioned whether the figures could be wrong, or the demographer overlooking trends more obvious to long-time residents, builders, etc. The demographer said all that may be true, but those factors weren’t reflected in the numbers so far.
Superintendent Bill Cleveland said he hoped to start taking steps on a plan by Labor Day. He assured the audience that he was taking more into account than just demographics, such as the likelihood that millennials drawn to Birmingham’s growing cultural and entertainment scene will bring their families to Homewood — and Homewood schools — in the near future.